A train derailment in the small Canadian town of Lac-Megantic early Saturday morning, resulted in explosions and fires. One resident described the incident as an ‘atomic blast.’ The entire town had to be evacuated.
The train was pulling 73 cars filled with crude oil. When it derailed in mid-town, it sent fireballs flying through the area which contained several bars and restaurants. Residents scrambled to escape the smoke and flames, as an intense red glow lit up the night’s sky. Quebec provincial police Lieutenant Michel Brunet has confirmed one person has died.
The authorities told reporters that ‘many’ people were missing.
The accident forced the evacuation of the entire town of about 6,000 people. Several homes were set ablaze, and the flames rose higher than the nearby church steeple. The incident occurred around 1 a.m. local time, and flames and billowing black smoke could be seen more than 12 hours after the derailment, which involved the 73-car train.
“When you see the center of your town almost destroyed, you’ll understand that we’re asking ourselves how we are going to get through this event,” an emotional Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche told a televised news briefing.
The cause of the derailment was not immediately known.
“On a beautiful evening like this with the bar, there were a lot of people there,” said Bernard Demers, who owns a restaurant near the blast site. “It was a big explosion. It’s a catastrophe. It’s terrible for the population.”
Mr Demers, who fled his home, said the explosion was “like an atomic bomb. It was very hot. Everybody was afraid”.
Charles Coue said that as he and his wife sprinted from their home the heat was intense. “It went boom and it came like a fireball,” he said.
The latest reports are that as many as 60 people are missing.
The 73-car train had been parked and left unattended some distance from Lac Megantic, Reuters reported.
“Somehow the train got released,” Montreal, Maine, & Atlantic Vice President Joseph McGonigle was quoted as telling Reuters.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his sympathy in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those affected by this morning’s tragic train derailment and subsequent fires in Lac-Megantic, Quebec,” he said.
A small town in Canada is devastated today, as an ‘atomic-like blast’ was caused by a derailed train carrying crude oil.
Alfred James reporting